Do My Wedding Vendors Need A Meal?

Do My Wedding Vendors Need A Meal?

When hiring wedding professionals for your big day, you may see a section in your contract about providing vendor meals. Do you really need to spend extra money feeding them after you’ve already paid so much for their services?


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Wedding Day and Honeymoon Fun

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wedding day and honeymoon fun We've been busy pinning some fun ideas over one our Pinterest boards! Check out our new board, Wedding Day and Honeymoon Fun, for some great getting-ready attire and pre-wedding special touches. Plus, some honeymoon ideas too! What fun ideas have you pinned recently?


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Christmas Inspiration

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Christmas is next week! Yikes! If you are busy with wedding planning, your Christmas preparations may have fallen by the wayside this year. But don't worry, we found some fun and easy projects on Pinterest to inspire you! Head on over to check them out. Merry Christmas! christmas pinterest


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Halloween Wedding Inspiration

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Happy Halloween! Today we're featuring some Pinterest inspiration for couples that choose to take "Til Death Do Us Part" to a whole new level by having a Halloween themed wedding. Head over to our Pinterest page to check it out! halloween wedding

 


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In Favor of the Rehearsal Brunch or Luncheon

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Breakfast Brunch Lunch Wedding Rehearsal This morning, at 10:00 am, we had a great rehearsal for tomorrow's wedding. The wedding party went to a lovely luncheon afterward. So who says you have to have a rehearsal dinner?

Having an earlier ceremony rehearsal means plenty of time to relax with your friends and family the day before the wedding. Plus, if you are planning to decorate your own venue (not that we recommend that!) you would have plenty of time to do so. The guys could play a round of golf, since afternoon tee times are much easier to get. The girls have time for a mani/pedi without walking into the venue with still-wet nails. Or here on the First Coast, you have time to hit the beach with your buds!

Of course, if you have lots of people traveling for your wedding, or getting time off work is an issue, a morning rehearsal may not work for you. But why not investigate the option?

Bonus for the groom's parents: brunch or lunch menus tend to be lower priced than dinners, and you won't need as much alcohol!

Would you consider having a rehearsal brunch or luncheon?


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Welcome Bags for Out-Of-Town Wedding Guests

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Bow Tie Bags Wedding Welcome BagsIt's that time of year when we're busy getting welcome bags/boxes ready for our spring weddings! We get a lot of questions about what goes inside these little packages. The most common items are:

  • Bottled water.  An absolute must!
  • Snacks.  Something salty, something sweet, and perhaps something with a local flair. (More on this below.)
  • Information about the area.  Contact the local visitors' bureau or chamber of commerce, and they will be more than happy to send you brochures and maybe even coupons!
  • Information about the wedding.  If you have an action-packed weekend planned, include an itinerary and maps/directions if transportation isn't being provided.
  • Contact information.  Assign a local friend to act as your concierge for the weekend to help with last minute questions from your guests.

From the basics, you can upgrade to include bottles of wine, personalized toiletry items like lotion or bubble bath, even slippers!  If you are planning a beach wedding, perhaps a pair of flip flops and bottle of sunscreen.  For a garden wedding, a lovely hat. Just remember that your guests will have to pack these items for their trip home, or leave them behind.

When our brides ask us for "regional" favorites, we suggest:

  • Peterbrooke chocolates
  • Florida oranges
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Datil pepper sauce
  • San Sebastian wines

Sound like a lot of work? If you aren't working with a wedding planner who offers this service, check out Bow Tie Bags - you can customize your bag and its contents, and they will ship them directly to the hotel. (The photo above is one of their creations!)


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No More Wedding Cupcakes!

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mini-piesWe very rarely see cupcakes at weddings. Our clients seem to love the drama of a large cake. But for 2014, cupcakes are definitely out - say hello to mini-pies!

 New twists on classic dishes are hot throughout wedding menus and mini-pies are on the top of the list. Old classics like rhubarb are making a comeback - pair it with strawberry for the perfect mix of sweet and tart. 

Other unique flavor combos include raspberry key lime, pumpkin pecan praline, or lemon blueberry. Or, ask your caterer to use Grandma's prize-winning apple pie recipe! What a great way to incorporate family tradition into your wedding.

Of course, this idea is great for showers or rehearsal dinners too! A variety of mini-pies can be arranged on a table, as shown in the photo on the right. Or, if you plan to serve one flavor of pie, have them served to your guests at their table as shown in the photo below.

What type of pie would you serve at your wedding?

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The Groom's Cake

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Grooms Cake Jacksonville FL Wedding The Groom's Cake is a tradition popular in the South, but where did this tradition come from?

In the Victorian Era, the groom's cake was a dense fruit cake. Small pieces of cake were put into boxes and given to the single women at the wedding. The women put the cake under their pillow to bring dreams of their future husband.

While that tradition has gone away, the groom's cake is still generally darker or denser than the wedding cake. Popular favorites include chocolate cake, carrot cake, or cheesecake. And it is still popular to box the groom's cake and give it to your guests as a wedding favor.

We see lots of our couples serve the groom's cake at the rehearsal dinner rather than at the wedding. Usually, the cake is designed with the groom's interests or hobbies in mind. The fun cake pictured here is from Jenna and Andy's wedding, and was created by Classic Cakes and photographed by Fox Fotography.

So do you have to have one? No, it's your wedding - do whatever you want to! But it is a fun way to incorporate a touch of the groom's personality into the wedding day.


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Signature Drinks Featuring Pearl Wedding Cake Vodka

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TheBlushingBride_Pearl Wedding Cake VodkaAt last year's Association of Bridal Consultants' conference, I was introduced to Pearl Wedding Cake Vodka. What a great addition to a signature drink! They have lots of great recipes on their website, but here are two they featured at the conference.

Blushing Bride (shown in photo)

2 oz Pearl Wedding Cake 2 oz Cranberry Juice 1/2 oz Prosecco

Chill champagne glass. Pour ingredients as listed. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and serve.

Tropical Wedding

2oz Pearl Wedding Cake 4oz Pineapple Juice

Pour Pearl in chilled martini glass. Add pineapple juice. Garnish with pineapple wedge.

Do you have signature drink recipe you'd like to share? Post it in the comments below!


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Planning Your Wedding Menu

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When you begin planning your wedding menu, there are many more decisions to make that just sit-down or stations/buffet. Here are some tips to consider: Think about what foods are in season at the time of your wedding. In-season fruits and vegetables are more budget friendly too!

Choose foods that will pair nicely both in flavor and in presentation. Monochromatic may work as a wedding color scheme, but it doesn't work well on a plate. Be sure to choose a variety of colors and textures for your meal.

Avoid overly spicy foods. There are few things worse that heartburn during your wedding reception!

Ask your caterer about alternate meals for vegetarians, vegans, and those with food allergies. They will usually offer an alternate entree that will meet all these needs.

Consider printing menu cards that detail the meal and include them at each place setting. If someone does have a concern about a menu item, they can ask their server.

Don't be afraid to ask your caterer about incorporating a family recipe into your menu. Most chefs love to try new recipes, with enough advance notice.

(photo by La Dolce Vita Studios)


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Bridal Shower Recipe Fun

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Letterpress Recipe Card BoxMy mom and I were recently visiting my 97-year-old Great Aunt Cora, and the conversation turned to cookies. Even at 97, Aunt Cora can still remember who preferred peanut butter and who preferred chocolate chip.  Each Christmas, she would make batches and batches of cookies, seal them into decorative tins, and give them as gifts. I never understood why I had to share a tin with my mom - but now as an adult, when I think of how many hours of baking that was, I get it! After cookies, we talked about other favorite family meals, and there was a slightly-heated discussion about who is in possession of Aunt Cora's invaluable recipe box. That conversation got me thinking - my generation, and those younger than me I'm sure, don't really treasure recipes. If we want to try something new for dinner, we turn to Google or AllRecipes.com, rather than a treasured family recipe box. So for your bridal shower, why not start your own?

How it works: Include a recipe card with the shower invitations. Be sure to include instructions for your guests to write down their favorite recipe and bring it with them to the party. You might want to write a meal type on the cards, so that you don't end up with all cookie recipes! If it is a small shower of mostly family, you may even want to ask each guest to bring their dish with them, pot-luck style.

My tip: Choose a recipe card that is blank on the back. Then ask each guest to write a little note with the origin of the recipe, a special memory of you, or a wish for you and your husband. I love the stylish letterpress recipe set shown here from OneCanoeTwo Letterpress on Etsy.

During the party, be sure to save time to ooh and aah over all the recipes in your collection!


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Special-Diet Wedding Cakes

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Special diets are a hot topic in the catering industry these days - and I'm not talking about South Beach vs. Atkins. Many people have dietary restrictions, including sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan, and why shouldn't they get to eat cake at their own wedding? Many cake bakers in North Florida recognize the importance of dietary restrictions, and have cake options for their clients.

  • Gluten-free cakes require that equipment and supplies be kept separate from gluten-containing products, and the work surface must be sanitized thoroughly.
  • Diabetic cakes often replace sugar with agave nector, fruit purées, honey, maple syrup and evaporated cane juice.
  • Vegan cakes will not have diary or egg products. Alternative dairy products are used, such as soy, rice, oat, coconut and almond milk, soy butter, and coconut oil.

If you have a special dietary restriction, you may consider ordering a small cake that can be placed near the traditional wedding cake.

Or, ask your cake baker about a dummy cake! Many cake bakers can make a cake of Styrofoam and fondant, making it look very real. Then they can add a small layer of cake made especially for you, which you can cut during the reception. Then, the guests can be served from sheet cakes that are stored in the kitchen. This way, you get to cut your wedding cake and eat it, and your guests can enjoy a more traditional cake recipe.

If you have close family members or friends that have dietary restrictions, some may recommend having special cupcakes for them. While this is nice, it often draws attention to the fact that they have a special need. Consider having a small cake in the back and alerting your caterer to those that should be served the special cake.

The pretty cake featured here is from one of our past weddings, and was created by Simply Delicious! Cakes - they offer a variety of special diet cakes in North Florida.


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Blueprint for Wedding Success

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Blueprint for Wedding Success

Announcing our newest seminar, Blueprint For Wedding Success!  Join us for an afternoon of valuable tips and information from Master Bridal Consultant, Heather Canada. Topics include:

Basics:
  • Selecting a date
  • Themes/color schemes
  • Budgeting
  • Choosing locations

Ceremony:

  • Interfaith weddings
  • Traditions

Reception:

  • DJ vs Band
  • Meal types
  • Bar

Extras:

  • Favors
  • Invitations
  • Personalization

Followed by individual Q&A with Master Bridal Consultant Heather Canada. Plus:

Tickets are only $15 per person, or two tickets for $25.  Plus, clients of First Coast Weddings, Avalon Hall, and The Perfect Pear get a special discount! (Ask us for details.) Seating is limited, so sign up today at http://weddingblueprint.eventbrite.com.


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Choosing Wine For Your Wedding

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Our educational session at last night's Association of Bridal Consultants' meeting was all about selecting wines for weddings. With the help of the Certified Sommelier Steven Jones from TPC Sawgrass, we learned that some wines are better for cocktail hour, some are better for dinner, and some can be used for both.

We tasted Beringer Foudners Estate Chardonnay, which is a great option for cocktail hour. It's light and crisp, but doesn't have enough body to be paired with your dinner entree. For dinner, we tried Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. This was the #1 selling restaurant wine list wine in the US, which makes it an excellent choice to pair with a meal. The third wine was Wente "Morning Fog" Chardonnay, which had a nice balance. It was light enough to enjoy on its own, but had enough body to pair with dinner too.

When you are selecting wines for your wedding, don't automatically pick the house red and white. Talk to your catering sales manager about options; most venues would be happy to discuss wines that will compliment your meal choice.  Even if they do not have a Sommelier on staff, their chef or food and beverage director can help you with your selection.

Interesting side note: On any given day, TPC Sawgrass has roughly $800,000 in wine inventory. The weeks leading up to The Players Championship make that number even bigger! That's a lot of wine.


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New Year's Eve Wedding Tips

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We are busy preparing for a special New Year's Eve wedding on Saturday! I thought I would share a few suggestions if you are considering a New Year's Eve wedding too.

  • Set your ceremony time for 7:00 pm or later. Your guests will want to stay until midnight, so don't try to stretch the party out too long.
  • Send your invitations well in advance. Normally, wedding invitations are mailed 6-8 weeks before the wedding; yours should be sent about 3 months before to allow your guests to make plans.
  • Consider adding late-night snacks or a midnight breakfast buffet to your menu.
  • Ask your venue or audio/visual company about having a big-screen TV in the room to watch to countdown to midnight.
  • Don't forget to purchase party favors for your guests! Noise-makers, hats, and tiaras are always fun to ring in the New Year.
  • Offer plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and urge your guests to use cabs or designate a driver.

Side note: If you are out celebrating on New Year's Eve and wind up drinking too much when you were supposed to drive home, the American Automobile Association hopes you will call its Tow To Go program at 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357). "The program is very unique because it is one of the few programs that comes and gets the driver and their car and gets them both home safely," AAA spokeswoman Joanna Newton said. "What's even more unique is that it is free of charge, completely confidential and you do not have to be a AAA member to use the service."


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What To Put In Welcome Bags

Lately, we have been getting a lot of questions from brides about what to put in their welcome bags. In case you aren't familiar with the term, these are little bags or baskets of goodies delivered to the hotel room of your out-of-town guests. They can be as elaborate or as simple as your budget will allow! The container itself can be inspired by your wedding location, theme, or personalities - we've seen everything from cute beach pails to formal baskets to reusable shopping bags.  If you opt for the gift bag route, you can have them printed with your names and wedding date, or attach a cute tag to the handle.  The bag pictured here  is from FavorsYouKeep.com.

So what goes inside?  The most common items are:

  • Bottled water.  An absolute must!
  • Snacks.  Something salty, something sweet, and perhaps something with a local flair. (More on this below.)
  • Information about the area.  Contact the local visitors' bureau or chamber of commerce, and they will be more than happy to send you brochures and maybe even coupons!
  • Information about the wedding.  If you have an action-packed weekend planned, include an itinerary and maps/directions if transportation isn't being provided.
  • Contact information.  Assign a local friend to act as your concierge for the weekend to help with last minute questions from your guests.

From the basics, you can upgrade to include bottles of wine, personalized toiletry items like lotion or bubble bath, even slippers!  If you are planning a beach wedding, perhaps a pair of flip flops and bottle of sunscreen.  For a garden wedding, a lovely hat. Just remember that your guests will have to pack these items for their trip home, or leave them behind.

When our brides ask us for "regional" favorites, we suggest:

  • Peterbrooke chocolates
  • Florida oranges
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Datil pepper sauce
  • San Sebastian wines

What are some of your favorite welcome bag items?


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Food and Beverage Pricing

Abby + Ryan, Kris Graham Photography Before starting First Coast Weddings and Events in 2002, I worked at hotels and country clubs in the catering department. So I know a thing or two about customizing menus and getting the most bang for your food-and-beverage buck.

One of the hardest things for brides and grooms is menu pricing. It's hard for our staff too, even though most of us have worked in hotels.  So, here are some things to think about when choosing a venue. For the purposes of this post, we'll look at venues that have in-house catering.

1. What is included? Or a better question, what is NOT included?

  • Tax and service charge: Most venues add 18-22% to your food and beverage total, which should be split among the wait staff, bartenders, and other venue personnel.  In Florida, a "service charge" is taxable, so be sure to figure that into your calculations! Take your total, add the service charge, take that total, then calculate the tax to get a total amount.
  • Additional fees:  Chef fees, bartender fees, and setup fees can add up quickly. Be sure to ask if there are any of these fees in addition to the menu price, and if they are taxable.
  • Rentals:  Are standard tablecloths included? Are they floor length? Is the dance floor included? Be sure to get it in writing if they are.
  • If a menu has the word "inclusive" after the price, it means that the tax and service charge are already included.

2. Comparing apples to apples

  • Some venues offer package pricing, some offer ala carte.  It's hard to compare prices when one includes a 4-hour premium bar and one doesn't.
  • I suggest making a spreadsheet with all possible charges - food, bar, rentals, fees, tax, service charge - to come up with a total amount for each venue. If you have any questions about what a venue charges, be sure to asking the catering manager!
  • Be sure to consider the food and beverage minimum when comparing too.  This is the total amount you will need to spend on food and drinks before tax and service charge.  This minimum typically does not include other fees, rentals, etc.

3. Time to customize

  • You can ask for a specific price or a specific item, but not both. For example, you have your heart set on prime rib, but it's not on the venue's menu.  Ask! Most chefs are happy to put together a custom menu for you.
  • Likewise, if your budget for hors d'ouevres, sit-down dinner, and 4-hour bar is $100 inclusive (meaning with tax and service charge), you might ask your catering manager to customize a menu for you.  You might not be able to serve prime rib, but the chef may come up with an interesting option that will fit your price point.
  • Be sure to negotiate these things before signing a contract, not 6 weeks before your wedding!  And remember, you might be able to get a better deal on an off day or a non-peak month, depending on the venue.

Hopefully these insights will help you when choosing your reception location. Also remember that we offer hourly consultations if you need help figuring it all out! :)


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Cake Toppers: New Ideas for Filling That Empty Space

When you look at this wedding cake topper couple, what does it make you think of??

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You may be flashing back to pictures from your parents and grandparents weddings, when these were a hit. These days why not change it up a little. Make your wedding more fun, while still keeping some of the tradition alive with a cake topper like this.

This wedding was photographed by two close friends and very gifted photographers, John Paul Douglass and Wes Sumner. The topper is actually made from wooden clothespins painted to resemble the outfits of the bride and groom, something that is more common today than the toppers of the past.

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Here is another example of some toppers made by Lil' Cake Toppers that are reminiscent of various backgrounds and ethnicities. Notice the top left are the newly wed Duke and Duchess of Wales (not their actual cake topper).

If you are more interested in displaying an object rather than people on the top of your wedding cake, below is an example of an alternative decoration.

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For a wedding that is beach themed, this chair idea is a perfect choice. For an additional fun flair, you can add some glitter including your initials on each chair to make it more personalized.

If there is a specific animal that you and your fiance' share a passion for, this is another neat way to separate your wedding cake topper from others. Above is an example of two owls that really make the cake.

Also a great way  to make an impression on your guests and jump from tradition, is for you to use cupcakes instead of a wedding cake and create personalized and unique family photo cutouts.

If you have time to explore your creative side, doing so with the wedding cake topper is a great way for your guests to really remember your wedding from the rest. For more cake topper ideas, visit Simply Delicious! and Martha Stewart weddings.


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Crafty Wedding Favors Within a Budget

Things have gotten very creative when it comes to the popular wedding favors of today. No longer are they fine polished silver bells that you have to worry about cleaning every few months so they don't tarnish. With many bride and groom's having to worry about everything else that comes with a wedding, especially the major expenses of a venue and caterers, it's nice to spend a little less on favors while still giving it a unique touch. Here are some examples of wedding favors that can add a whimsical and personal appeal to your wedding.

Holographic glasses

Sure, these glasses are a little silly. But they are also fun and can only cause giggles for your wedding guests. When peering through these one-of-a-kind glasses, all points of light (candles, street lamps, headlights) turn into hearts. Plus, what's so great about these is you can either keep them or throw them away. They are just there to entertain the guests and show them that you are thinking of them.

DIY Cotton Candy Favors

Some brides like to explore their crafty side and make party favors themselves. These Do It Yourself Cotton Candy Favors are one perfect way to show this.  Also known as "Fairy Floss," flavors include Pistachio, Vanilla, and Rose and look extra sweet in these translucent envelopes. For full directions, check out this link.

Cookie Bags

These edible cookie bags, found on Martha Stewart are perfect favors for a summer wedding. Made to resemble paper bags, they vary in size and can either be taken home or, if they look too savory to wait, can be gobbled up at the wedding.

Forget-Me-Not's

Many Spring/Summer weddings are based around flowers, and the new gardening season, which is why these Forget-Me-Not seed wedding favors are sure to be a hit.

For many more wedding favor tips and ideas, visit these inspiring websites:


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